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Graduating college is exciting, scary, and anxiety-inducing. One of the best ways to beat anxiety is to get organized. Making a list of what needs to be done puts intangible fears into doable tasks. To help get you started, here’s a checklist of what to do after graduation. Cross off these to-dos and you’ll be ready for the adult world in no time.
1. Take a Deep Breath
First things first: take a long, deep breath. Take a few moments to relax. In the weeks and months leading up to graduation your brain fills with fears about the future. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed, because it’s true: a lot is going to change. But stressing doesn’t help the situation at all. So remember, breathe.
After you’ve thrown your cap in the air, you have two big options for what to do after graduation: go to grad school or get a job. These have slight differences in the beginning. For example, if your career requires you to have another degree, you will have already applied to grad schools and gone through the admission process. Otherwise, the following steps are similar.
2. Figure Out Where You’re Going to Live
Minor task, right? Maybe not. If you’re going to grad school, you already know where you need to go. If not, your options are endless. Although a certain job offer might sway you, figure out what location you want to be.
If you’re staying local, one option after graduation is to live with your parents. This is a great decision financially, because you will save a ton of money. Before you move back in, talk with your parents about the logistics of the arrangement. Also, make sure you have an exit strategy so you don’t get stuck in the comfortability of being back home with the fam.
3. Update Your LinkedIn
You need a LinkedIn. If you don’t have one, make one. If you already have one, update it with current information. You will use it to stay connected to classmates and professors, contacts you made during college, and all the connections you’re about to have in the post-grad world.
4. Start the Job Search
Time to start Googling. Use career services, networking sites, friends or family. Utilize whatever method your heart desires, just make sure you’re actively searching for employment. If you’re going to grad school after graduation, this could be an assistantship, part-time work, or an internship.
5. Update Your Resume
This is essential no matter what, for two important reasons: you can’t get a job without a resume and it’s easier to update your resume often with small changes than all at once when a ton of things have changed. It’s difficult to remember what you’ve done two years later, so keep it updated (and perhaps add it to your newly updated LinkedIn as well).
You knew this was coming. It’s perhaps the most terrifying aspect of leaving college, but it’s necessary (and kind of the main reason you went to college). Luckily, we have job search tips for you. If for some reason you just can’t land a job, do something little–babysitting, tutoring, house cleaning, whatever. Find a side hustle and make some money.
If you plan on going to grad school someday but not now, or don’t want to start a career just yet, you can do a gap year. A gap year could too easily turn into an excuse to “chill” for a year, so if you take time off, make sure it’s useful for your future and worth your time.
Once you get your job, negotiate your salary! Landing your first job is a thrill–you made it! The “OMG you want to hire me?!” feeling leads to a common fresh-grad mistake: not negotiating. This is definitely a mistake. Negotiate everything.
7. Start an Emergency Fund
News flash: you can’t plan everything in life. You’re going to need an emergency fund because you never know what’s going to happen — especially with all this change going on in your life right now.
8. Make a Plan for Repaying Your Student Loans
Student debt! Yay! Just kidding, this sucks. But because interest is going to start adding up after graduation, you don’t want to avoid this. Pay off your student loans as soon as you can. There are options out there, so find what works best for you.
9. Mentally Prepare
Keep taking those deep breaths. This is just the start. It’s not make-or-break it. You get a job and don’t like it? Find a new one. Find out you want a different career? Go back to school. You will have many jobs throughout the rest of your life, and this is only the beginning.
Set your goals. Stay focused, and go after them. It’s going to take hard work, but you can do it, and it’s going to be worth it. Real world, watch out.